Using e-Commerce Sites in Language Teaching

This post is the second in a series on using technology in the language classroom.

A while (quite a while) back, I published a post on using Google maps to practice the imperative mood and to acquaint students with the layout of cities in countries where the target language is spoken. My examples used Spanish and Madrid, but, of course, you can adapt the exercise for any language where the language you teach is spoken. This is a nice way to go outside the textbook to give students some language practice while giving them a degree of exposure to the target culture.

If you’re looking for additional ways to break free of the textbook and make use of resources readily available and accessible via the Internet, consider using e-commerce sites to have your students practice certain vocabulary sets.

I like to use the websites of Spanish clothiers, especially Zara, as it’s a brand with which most of my students are already familiar. I instruct students to work in pairs and to go to the Spanish version of the website:


I then give them a series of outfits to assemble based on different situations. This allows them to practice vocabulary sets that have been previously introduced (scaffolding) as well as using relevant cultural information. For example:

* Buy an outfit appropriate for July in Bolivia (requires cultural knowledge that Bolivia is in the southern hemisphere and thus has different seasons from those in the U.S.; also requires knowledge of weather vocabulary)

* Buy an outfit appropriate for a university student attending class in Mexico City in November (requires cultural knowledge that students in Mexico dress more formally than U.S. college students, plus weather vocab)

* Buy an inexpensive formal ensemble; the group with the cheapest outfit wins (requires number vocab)

I like to give students a few minutes to assemble each outfit, and then to have a group or two share their outfit. If your classroom has an A/V setup, it’s easy for students to show their classmates what they’ve been working on by hooking up student laptops.
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In this particular case, in addition to exposing students to authentic vocabulary, the Zara website also provides an opportunity to discuss different forms of the imperative. The tú/Ud. mandatos that they have learned in class are different from the infinitives used here (“iniciar sesión”; “añadir a cesta”; etc.); the instructor may choose to draw students attention to these new commands and explain their usage.

Another e-commerce site I use in my classes is the web outlet of Superama, a Walmart-owned supermarket in Mexico. Superama allows customers to order their groceries online, so your students can do the same.


Students can practice food vocab by putting shopping for the ingredients necessary to make a particular dish, for example; you could also practice comparatives and superlatives by comparing different brands of the same product.

These are just some of the ways you can use e-commerce sites to enhance language instruction. Do you use shopping sites in your classroom? How?

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